SC allows civil suits vs Piatco to proceedBy Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Supreme Court has cleared the way for the resumption of a claims suit at the Makati City Regional Trial Court filed by two Japanese companies against the Philippine International Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco) for the construction of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal (Naia) 3.
In 2005, Takenaka Corp. and Asahisokan Corp., which were contracted by Piatco to construct and design the terminal, respectively, were awarded a total of $71.3 million and P116.8 million, including interests, by the Queen’s Bench Division of the London High Court of Justice.
The following year, the two Japanese companies filed a civil case against Piatco at the Makati RTC Branch 58 to enforce the London ruling.
Claims vs gov’t
At that time, Piatco had a pending claims case before the Pasay City RTC, seeking claims against the government for expropriating the Naia 3 terminal in 2004.
Piatco asked the Makati RTC to dismiss the civil case, questioning the credentials of the Japanese companies’ representative, accused him of forum shopping, and demanded the production in court of the agreement between Piatco and the terminal operator, Manila International Airport Authority.
When the Makati RTC judge denied Piatco’s motion to dismiss, the latter elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (COA), which in July 2007 affirmed the judge’s denial of the motion to dismiss but allowed the presentation of documents.
Insisting on the dismissal of the case, Piatco then filed a certiorari case before the Supreme Court, which upheld the COA decision.
In a 12-page ruling, the Supreme Court’s Third Division said it “does not see any reason to overturn the COA’s finding that there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in denying the motion to dismiss.”
Relaxing the rules
“There was no showing of such capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment or arbitrary and despotic exercise of power committed by the trial court. In fact, records reveal that both parties were given ample opportunity to be heard,” the division said in a ruling penned by Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
As to the allegation of forum shopping, the court said it had previously ruled that the procedures may be relaxed, considering that the Naia 3 case has “attained transcendental importance” because it affects one of the country’s most important public utilities.
“The court sees it fit to relax the rules in this case to arrive at a full settlement of the parties’ claims and avoid further delay in the administration of justice,” the justices said.
In May last year, the Pasay RTC awarded Piatco US$176 million as “just compensation” for the government’s expropriation of the terminal. Piatco, however, contested the amount and filed before the COA another appeal seeking $842 million, which remains pending.